American Ninja training at Cape Cod Inflatable Park

My kids love the Cape Cod Inflatable Park in Yarmouth with an intensity that defies logic.  Or maybe I’m just an old grump. 

The Inflatable Park delivers exactly what it says on the tin. It’s a whole lot of inflatable bouncy things like you’d find at a kiddie party but bigger, better and just generally… more insane. 

 This year they have done a revamp of the whole place so many of the inflatables were new. My kids could barely contain their excitement because their old favourites were still there plus lots of new exciting ones. 

For example, there was the  inflatable where you put yourself in a Velcro suit and try to throw yourself so that you stick onto a giant dart board. 

  
We had the mechanical bull operator throw my Spanish au pair for a really wild ride. It seemed only fair since the Spanish are still into bull fighting. We felt justice ought to be served in some small cosmic way.  

Then you had the crazy jousting on top of the inflatable which reminded me of those crazy Japanese television contest shows.  It was really entertaining to watch – similar to Total Wipeout featuring your own family. 

 
We had a football game which descended into chaos and occasional flagrant handballs. 

 
Although we’be been midweek before, this year we went on a Satirday in July. it was very busy with both kids and adults. 

There is a separate toddlers area as well as a water park inflatable area which is included in the general price of admission.  In addition there is a challenge area of trapezes, tightropes etc which is meant for teenagers and adults. It’s probably really good if you are preparing for a show like American Ninja. The challenge area is an additional fee. 

  
The Cape Cod Inflatable Park isn’t cheap.  A summer day admission runs $29 (less for little ones). The Stay and Play Rate with the attached Cape Cod Family Resort is not bad value in this context.  For each room you get 4 park passes, breakfast and a pretty good double-bedded room. The rooms are recently revamped too with comfortable beds, air conditioning and WiFi.  We had no problem getting connecting rooms.  The breakfast is nothing special (cereal and plastic-wrapped muffins).  The cost of this motel bounty? In the summer, it’s $169 per room for the weekdays and $219 per room on the weekends. 

Gone wild for blueberries

I realise I out up the post “it was just what we did” with no actual post. Oops. Epic Fail on the multitasking on holiday.  

So what did we do? My kids and their friends picked wild blueberries from the bushes around our summer house and made a blueberry pie from scratch with them. Technically lots of them were huckleberries (smaller than blueberries) but why be persnickety?  It was delicious. 

It was good wholesome fun. I felt very Martha Stewart meets The Brady Bunch.  

There are wild berries and beach plums everywhere on Martha’s Vineyard.  You’d think it would be grapes but no.  Beach plums are an acquired taste and make better preserves than pies. 

  
 

Fun For Kids: Roosevelt Island Tram in Manhattan

While we were waiting for our table reservation at Serendipity, the famous ice-cream store in Manhattan, we had a couple of hours to wander around.  The cheapest and easiest option was to take the kids down the street from Serendipity and take the Roosevelt Island tram.  For the price of a New York subway ticket, we got to see Manhattan from a different perspective.

The Roosevelt Island Tram

You get great views over the traffic and buildings in Manhattan from the tram as it crosses the East River.  From Roosevelt Island itself, the skyline of the East Side of Manhattan is spread out before you.

Roosevelt Island tram view

Roosevelt Island tram view

The Roosevelt Island Tram entrance/exit is located at 59th Street and 2nd Avenue.  It only takes a few minutes for the trip and runs regularly.

Kids, of course, will be familiar with the Tram from the climactic scene in Spider-Man (2002) where Spider-Man has to choose between his girl and the passengers on the tram.  Fear not, without the Green Goblin attacking the tram, it is perfectly safe.  Over 26 million people have rode on the tram since it began operating in 1976.

The Four Freedoms Park

The tip of Roosevelt Island is being redeveloped into The Four Freedoms Park, named after the famous quote by Franklin D. Roosevelt from the 1941 State of the Union speech.

In the future days, which we seek to make secure, we look forward to a world founded upon four essential human freedoms. The first is freedom of speech and expression – everywhere in the world. The second is freedoms of every person to worship god in his own way – everywhere in the world. The third is freedom from want…everywhere in the world. The fourth is freedom from fear…anywhere in the world.

– Franklin D. Roosevelt

The park is the last work of the late great Modernist architect, Louis I. Kahn.

Roosevelt Island tram view

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Roosevelt Island tram view

Roosevelt Island, New York City

I had never actually been to Roosevelt Island before I took the kids. This island is located in the East River between Manhattan and Queens. It had an infamous history as the dumping ground for the undesirables of New York society.  In the 19th century, there was a penitentiary (for criminals) and asylum (for the mentally unstable) located on the island.  There were a lot more women than men in the asylum because it became an easy place to park a wife you didn’t want.  Atlas Obscura has a fascinating piece on the history of the island.

The fact that the authorities dumped both criminals and the mentally ill together tells you exactly what they thought about these people.  Anyway, Nelly Bly in a pioneering piece of investigative journalism, wrote about the horrors of the asylum which helped to close it down.

In the late 20th century, the island was converted to residential housing. It’s name was changed from (the ironic) Welfare Island to Roosevelt Island in honour of the 32nd President who was from New York.  There are about 10,000 residents now living on the island.  Many diplomats choose to live there because of the easy access to the United Nations across the water.  More recently, Cornell University announced that it was building a state-of-the-art technology centre on the island.

Roosevelt Island tram view
A clear view of the UN building

So, in a nutshell, other than the park and the tram, there really isn’t much to see on Roosevelt Island.  On the other hand, the park and the tram are definitely worth experiencing!

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We spent a pleasant afternoon in the park and expended enough energy to feel justified in ordering massively-oversized sundaes at Serendipity!

This post is part of the #TheWeeklyPostcard and #WeekendWanderlust link-ups.

Travel Notes & Beyond
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It’s Morning Glory in Edgartown Anytime

Morning Glory Farm in Edgartown is a bit of an institution on the island of Martha’s Vineyard, an island off the coast of Cape Cod in Massachusetts.  Although billed as a humble farm stand, Morning Glory has the reputation and faithful clientele that would make any high-end gourmet food store proud.

Morning Glory farm farm stand
The barn/farm stand

The farm was started in 1975 on land owned by the Athearn family who have lived on the Vineyard since the 19th century.  Starting off with a farm stand, by 2010 business was thriving enough that a newly-built barn replaced the original structure.  They farm over 120 acres over several sites on the island.  The farm produces a wide variety of crops, herbs and cut flowers.

Morning Glory flowers
Rustic chic flowers

We are lucky we live near Morning Glory Farm and stop by the farm stand often.  I am in the habit of getting their ice tea and a muffin for breakfast after I drop my children off at horse-riding camp nearby. My favourite are the corn muffins followed closely by the peach muffins (in case you are wondering).

Martha’s Vineyard is such a small island that the farm where my children take their riding lessons is located near some of the Athearn family land in West Tisbury.  The horse farm sends off its manure to fertilise the Morning Glory farm crops.

The farm stand’s zucchini bread is deservedly famous for being delicious.  You can find the zucchini bread recipe here at Cape Cod Magazine if you feel inclined to try it out.  I heard grumbling in line in front of me the other day when one woman was complaining to another that the zucchini bread was not as good as it used to be.  Definitely, first world problems.

Morning Glory farm stand
Branded merchandise and books

I thought the best way to introduce Morning Glory Farm to you was with a vlog. It’ll give you a short tour of the farm stand and all the delicious products inside.

Morning Glory Farm is located on the corner of Meshacket Road and the Edgartown-West Tisbury Road.  It is open 7 days a week.

Morning Glory Farm in Edgartown in Martha's Vineyard sells the best farm fresh produce on the island

Brooklyn on the Hudson in New York

Hudson in New York is the cutest little town you ever did see.  I grew up in New York state and I don’t remember anything remotely this pretty in the area.  After a little bit of digging, I found out why.  Hudson is a trendy little town which has been recently colonised by Brooklynites looking for fresh air and small-town atmosphere.

street in hudson New York

The town has had its fair share of ups and downs over the course of its history.  Settled by merchants in the 18th century, the town was very prosperous and lost the vote to become the capital of New York State by one mere vote.  It had to make do with being the 4th largest city in New York by the early 19th century.  By the late 19th century though, it became famous for a less-salubrious reason – becoming the centre of the drinking, gambling and prostitution in the area.  The vice rings were broken up by the mid-twentieth century.

 

In the 1980’s, antiques dealers moved into the area and began the process of gentrification.  Shortly, thereafter it was gays and Brooklyn hipsters and the transformation to full-on cuteness was complete.

Antiques in Hudson New York

Many of the houses have historic architectural value because they were built in the town’s heyday in the 18th, 19th and early 20th centuries.  The loving restoration of these houses only adds to the charm of the town.

architecture in Hudson New York

architectural detail in Hudson New York
architectural detail

In addition to the 40+ antiques stores you have art galleries, specialty coffee shops, artisanal food shops and charming boutiques in this town.

food store in hudson New York
No corporate supermarket here!
Store in Hudson New York
Pretentious moi?
restaurant in Hudson New York
The psychiatric help here may be the cheapest thing in town.
food truck in Hudson New York
You can’t be trendy without the obliquitous food truck.
store in Hudson New York
Nothing practical here but it’s all very pretty.

My son and I had a great time wandering through town on our Hudson Valley Tour.  I can highly recommend Lick Hudson for their fabulous ice cream flavours such as gingersnap molasses and salted pistachio.  My son had a banana split sundae which I helped him finish.  I needed one of their delicious expressos after I came down from my post sundae sugar-high.

Hudson a small new York town that is beloved of hipsters from Brooklyn

We only did a day trip but there’s plenty of accommodation if you choose to stay here.  Check out the websites Stay in Hudson for accommodation possibilities and Go To Hudson for what to do when you are there.

The town is conveniently located on the Hudson River with its own Amtrak railroad station.  It is 2 hours from New York City and 3 hours from Boston.  We drove to Hudson and parking is really easy.

The Melting Pot in Downtown Manhattan

Lower Manhattan is an excellent place to explore the melting pot history of New York City.  Neighbourhoods such as the Lower East Side, Little Italy, Chinatown and Nolita are all an easy walking distance from each other.  And, the best part?  This historical exploration involves lots of food!

On our April trip to New York City, I signed my family up for the Enthusiastic Gourmet food tours of lower Manhattan.  Lead by Susan Rosenbaum, my kids immediately decided they liked her when our first stop of the day was Economy Candy, an Aladdin’s Cave of candy, gum and other sweets.

The Enthusiastic Gourmet
Susan from the Enthusiastic Gourmet at Economy Candy

We took her Melting Pot Tour from the Lower East Side through Chinatown and ending up in Little Italy.  Along the way, we sampled lots of different food and learned about the culture.  She did such a good job of keeping the kids’ attention, they didn’t even realise they were learning all about the history of the area.

The Melting Pot Tour of Manhattan with the Enthusiastic Gourmet

The Jewish Immigrants

The German and Eastern European Jews settled on the Lower East Side.  What did we sample?

Everyone knows about the bagel but there is also the bialys which are a relative of the bagel.  Bialys originated in Bialystok in Poland.  Although both bagels and bialys are made from unbleached white flour with yeast, bialys have roasted onions in the middle where there would be a hole for the bagel.

Susan was such a thorough tour guide she made us try a bialy as well as a bagel so that we could taste the difference.  The bialys are delicious especially if you are a fan of roasted onions like I am.

Another stop on the Jewish food tour was The Pickle Guys on Essex Street.  They are an entire store devoted to pickled food.  My son was in heaven because he loves pickles.  The items are pickled the old-fashioned way by setting them in large barrels in salt for months.  It’s not only pickles that are pickled but also garlic, celery, mushrooms, turnips, olives etc.

The Chinese Immigrants

In 1859, there were barely a couple of dozen men in New York City’s Chinatown.  At its height though there were 150,000 Chinese people living over an area of 50 city blocks.  Now, the Chinese population is about a 100,000 people.

Chinatown in Manhattan is an assault on the senses – the smell of food, the crowded streets, the chatter of people – all make this neighbourhood seem intensely alive.  There are more than 300 Chinese restaurants in the area!  Everywhere you look there are street stalls selling fruit and vegetables, restaurants with ducks hanging in the window and signs for bubble tea.

The Italian Immigrants

The Italians that showed up in New York City actually self- segregated themselves by their destination of origin.  For example, the immigrants from Sicily lived on Elizabeth Street and those from Naples lived on Mulberry Street. You have to remember these immigrants arrived in the days before Italy was a unified country.  As far as someone from Sicily was concerned, a person from Naples was from a different country.

Although the Italians from different regions originally didn’t talk or do business with each other, These prejudices eventually broke down.  Frankly, they had to.  By 1900 there were 100,000 Italians living in the 18-20 blocks that comprised of Little Italy.  Not talking to your neighbour was not an option in such crowded conditions.

Nowadays there are only a couple of hundred Italians who live in the neighbourhood even though there are still many Italian businesses.  Of course, we stopped by Di Palo, the Italian specialty food delicatessen and Ferrara Bakery and Cafe for their delicious cannolis.

The Podcast Episode with Dish Our Town

On a recent Just Go Places Podcast episode, Andrew Tolentino from the food and travel blog, Dish Our Town, mentioned many of the places that he would rate highly in these neighbourhoods.  In case you missed the podcast, here’s an overview of some of the highlights in video form.

You can find the full podcast episode on iTunes at Just Go Places Podcast or on the blog post which contains its show notes.

Downtown Manhattan
Image credit: Dish Our Town

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This post is part of the #TheWeeklyPostcard and #WeekendWanderlust and #wkendtravelinspiration link-ups.

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Travel Notes & Beyond

Chatham Sharks In The Park

Where do great white sharks spend their summers?  In Chatham on Cape Cod, of course.  The town of Chatham at the ‘elbow’ end of the Cape calls itself the summer home of the great white shark.

chatham cape cod

After 40+ years of being protected as a species, grey seals are abundant of the Cape now.  Sharks also have returned for some light summer seal snacking. More of the sharks have been spotted every year off the coast of Chatham since 2009 as the word gets out on the shark grapevine of easy seal pickings.  According to the Chatham Shark Center, approximately 70 great white sharks were in the area in 2014.

Just last week, a 7 year old great white shark got beached on South Beach in Chatham.  Beachgoers splashed him with water to keep him going and named him Jameson.  Rescuers from the Chatham Shark Center eventually were able to put him back in the ocean.  The researchers were unclear whether he would survive but if he does, he’s one of the youngest great whites to ever have been tagged.  We could learn a lot about great white sharks from Jameson’s misadventure.

We didn’t see any (real) sharks in Chatham but we loved the Sharks in the Park display in front of the public library.  Local artists were sponsored by local businesses to create 45 sharks that will be auctioned off for charity.

chatham shark in the park

The artists were really creative with their sharks using different techniques such as driftwood, sea glas or metals.  They also referenced a number of different ideas such as the local baseball team, the foodie scene, the music scene and life at the beach.

You can bid for a shark of your own at the Bidding For Good online auction site.  All the information on the artists for each shark is available online at the Sharks in the Park website.

This post is part of Monday Escapes on My Travel Monkey.

My Travel Monkey

Memorable Danish Pastries at The Solvang Bakery

When I think of Danish pastries, I of a puff pastry with some sort of fruit centre.  It wasn’t until I visited The Solvang Bakery in Solvang, California, a Danish pastry shop, that I realised there really is so much variety in Danish pastries!

The Solvang Bakery

The Solvang Bakery is reputed to be the best Danish bakery in the town of prides itself on its Danish heritage.  Established by Danish immigrants in the early 20th century, Solvang takes everything Danish very seriously.

The Solvang Bakery Mug

The Solvang Bakery has the pretzel sign in front of its store which is called a kringle.  The kringle sign is centuries-old symbol signifying membership in the Danish bakers’ guilds.  The bakeries in Denmark are allowed to have a crown over their kringles.

The Solvang Bakery

The interior is shabby chic with little tables if you are staying to eat in the store. There’s lots of merchandise for you to purchase on display. It’s all cutesy and geared towards an easy souvenir for tourists to take away.

The solvang bakery store

I was flabbergasted by the dizzying array of pastry options.  In my experience, my choices of Danish pastries usually involved deciding between apricot and berry.  Who knew they came in different sizes, shapes and fillings?! We didn’t know what to choose so we chose a variety of different pastries.  When in doubt, overeat.

The Solvang Bakery Goods

Solvang Bakery cream puff

The Solvang Bakery danishes

There’s a charming sheltered patio area in the back where you can sit and enjoy your pastry.  It leads directly out to the parking lot as well so you won’t have to waddle to far post-pastry.

History of the Danish Pastry

The story goes that the Danish pastry was invented because of a Danish bakers’ strike in 1850.  The Danish were resourceful though in the face of industrial action and simply imported Viennese bakers from Austria.  Austrians, as I have mentioned before in this blog, have a tradition of baking wonderful cakes and sweet treats.  The Austrians (and the French) had learned the art of baking dough in folds from the Ottoman Empire.  This form of pastry is not only delicious but has a long cultural history!

When the striking Danish bakers got back to work, they merged some of their techniques with that of the Viennese bakers.  The Danish pastry as we know it was born!  In Danish, the generic name for this type of pastry is called wienerbrød or “Viennese bread” in reference to its historical origins.

In the US, Danish immigrants brought the Danish pastry to their new homeland.  In the early twentieth century, a Danish immigrant baker called Klitting made a Danish pastry for President Wilson.  Eventually Klitting’s pastry caught the attention of a New York restaurateur who started selling them in his restaurants.  The danishes were an immediate success.

The Solvang Bakery danish
my personal favourite!

The Solvang Bakery Danishes

Visiting The Solvang Bakery

The Solvang Bakery is located at 438 Alisal Road in Solvang California. It is pretty much at the end of the main shopping strip (Copenhagen Drive) of the town.  There is ample parking behind the Bakery.  Also, if you park here, you can combine a trip to the Solvang Bakery with a visit to the Santa Ines Mission which is on the other side of the parking lot.

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This post is part of The Weekly Postcard at Travel Notes and Beyond, Weekend Wanderlust at A Brit and a Southerner and Sunday Traveler at Chasing the Donkey.  Do check out their blogs for some fun weekend travel reading!

As We Saw It

Solvang and the Trade in Danish Nostalgia

The little town of Solvang near Santa Barbara in the Santa Ynes valley means ‘sunny meadow’ in Danish.  Although the fields are long gone, the sunny aspect remains.  Astonishingly, Solvang is a little bit of Denmark transplanted onto the perma-sunny climes of California.  I would think I was in Europe if (i) the streets weren’t so wide, (ii) car parking wasn’t so easy and (iii) the weather wasn’t near-perfect with soft blue skies and a gentle breeze.

Solvang California recreates traditional Danish architecture and culture

The History of Solvang

Solvang was set up in 1911 by members of the Danish-American colony company.  The sunny fields of the Santa Ynes valley must have seemed blissful for the Danish immigrants who had just come from the much harsher climate of the Midwestern USA.

The architecture is traditional Danish style – lots of half-timbered style.  I’ve only ever been to Copenhagen in Denmark and I don’t actually remember any of these style of buildings.  The Copenhagen I saw was less twee and more classically grand as befitting a major capital city.  Maybe the half-timbered buildings are out in the smaller towns and villages?

half-timbered buildings in Solvang

There is also copies of typically Danish items in the town, including from Copenhagen, the Little Mermaid statue and the Round Tower.  A traditional Danish horse and wagon putters through the town taking tourists to the main sites.  And, of course, any mention of traditional Denmark has to include Hans Christian Andersen.  Check out the reference to his Red Shoes story below.

Danish clog in Solvang

Danish emblems solvang

Visits by Danish royalty twice (in 1939 and 1960) to the town have solidified the relationship between the immigrants and their homeland.  The town also celebrates its roots with the Danish Days festival.

Danish royal family mural

Tourism in Solvang

Solvang is a major tourist destination in California thanks to its architecture and trade in nostalgia.  The 2004 cult classic movie Sideways about two men on a road trip through the Santa Ynes valley has made the area popular for wine tourism. People come wine tasting and stop by pretty little Solvang as well.

In addition to wine tasting, Solvang is home to one of the original California Spanish missions, Mission Santa Ynes, right near the historical downtown district.  This pretty mission was the setting for a huge family wedding on the day we visited.

The streets of Solvang are lined with boutiques, cafes and restaurants.  The main drag is called Copenhagen Drive (surprise!).  You can get everything Danish related you could ever want here from Drindle outfits to chocolate.

Danish chocolates in Solvang

Danish bakery and coffee shop

window stickers in Solvang

We had lunch at The Red Viking on Copenhagen Drive which came recommended by our hotel.  The food was pretty good and very Danish.  You had a choice of a Danish smorgasbord or individual dishes.  Most of us chose the Danish meatballs (similar to Swedish meatballs I thought!).  My husband (at my prompting I have to confess) bravely tried one of the Danish pork dishes which he thought was pretty good.  Everything came with lashings of red cabbage.  By the way, there is a kiddie menu with standard fare.  The restaurant is located in one of the original half-timbered buildings in town.

red viking restaurant

Red Viking Smorgasboard

We also stopped by The Solvang Bakery for an afternoon snack of Danish sweet treats.  Having tried out several of its pastries, I can say that The Solvang Bakery definitely deserves its reputation as a great bakery.

Solvang is a charming little town to walk around.  If you look past the kitsch, you see how homesick some of the early immigrants were for their homelands.  I have seen that before with the Norwegian immigrants who built the replica of the medieval stavkirke in South Dakota. These immigrants tried to recreate their memories of a country most of them in all likelihood would never see again.  I personally think though Denmark with a California lifestyle sounds pretty good!  Give me a Danish pastry for breakfast, beach and surf in the afternoon and vineyards in the evening any day every day.

I’m linking up this post as part of  #MondayEscapes which has more great travel stories for you to peruse.

Packing my Suitcase

The Hidden Charms of the Canal Walkway at Venice Beach

The boardwalk at Venice Beach in Los Angeles California is a bit of a zoo so  you don’t expect to find a tranquil and charming neighbourhood a mere few blocks away.  The Venice Beach Canal walkway though is a quiet neighbourhood of pastel coloured houses, green shimmering water, quacking ducks and chirping birds.  Not a sign for medical marijuana in sight.

venice beach canal walkway

Venice Beach was established by an American tobacco tycoon, Abbott Kinney, in 1905 who wanted to bring the beauty and culture of Venice in Italy to its namesake in Southern California. He also wanted to create an amusement park and pier similar to that of neighbouring Santa Monica. Hey, beauty and culture in California could mean roller coasters and candy floss.

venice beach canal walkway

The original canals were much bigger and created in marshy swampland. Poor water circulation and the advent of cars meant this vision of Italian charm quickly became outdated and unhygienic. The few canals remaining were filled up by 1928 to create roads.  The canals that are now left were an afterthought. Theories on why they weren’t filled in vary.  Perhaps it was the advent of the Great Depression or the bankruptcy of the contractor who was supposed to fill in all the canals.

venice beach canal walkway

I loved the diversity of the housing stock. Anything from cute little early 20th century cottages to exceptional modernist pieces sit by side colour coordinating with their pastel prettiness.

There are pretty little white bridges that criss-cross across the canal connecting the walkways located on both sides.  The houses all have individual touches and pretty little gardens.  We saw a lot of barbecues because this is after all sunny southern California.

venice beach canal walkway

venice beach canal walkway

These houses now costs millions of dollars. On the front many of the houses have small boats, kayaks etc. There are spaces behind the houses where the cars are kept.  So unlike Venice in Italy, Venice Beach is car-friendly.

venice beach canal boats

The Venice Canal District was placed on the Register of Historic Places in 1982. It wasn’t, however, until the 1990’s that the houses and canals achieved the desirability and charm that it has today.

Venice Beach california canal walkwayAlthough the majority of Abbott Kinney’s vision may have been erased, what remains is delightful.  His name also lives on today in the nearby Abbott Kinney boulevard which is a very cool place with its  small boutiques, art galleries, coffee houses and restaurants.

Venice Beach California canal walkway

Visiting Venice Beach Canal Walkway:

The Venice Canal Walkway is pedestrianised so you will need to park nearby or walk over from the beach.  We parked on South Venice Boulevard which has a large car park.  You can cross over to Carroll Canal which is the first canal you find.  Then just get lost as you criss-cross the bridges and examine whatever catches your eye.  We were looking for the 25th Avenue entrance but saw this one first.